UK blames France as travelers face hour-long port delays

LONDON — On Friday, truckers and Britons going on holiday by ferry had to wait several hours at the port of Dover, with authorities blaming French officials for the chaos – a claim denied by France.

Authorities in Dover have said a shortage of French border officers is leading to waits of up to six hours for border checks at the Channel port, with queues of tourists and goods rumbling on roads for miles.

Millions of people in Britain are trying to start their holidays this weekend – the start of the summer school holidays – and are facing disruption by road, sea, rail and air.

UK port authorities said that despite months of work between the two countries to prepare for the peak travel season, the number of French border police “has been insufficient and is well below what is needed to ensure a smooth first weekend of peak summer”. escape period.

Since Britain left the European Union in 2020, British travelers have faced tighter border controls when traveling to the continent. At Dover, they are executed on the English side of the Channel by French personnel.

Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister said the port had declared a “critical incident”.

“We were badly disappointed this morning by the French border,” he said.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the situation “should have been entirely avoidable and is unacceptable”.

“We need action from France to build capacity at the border to limit any further disruption to British tourists and ensure this dreadful situation is avoided in the future,” said Truss, who is running to replace Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party and Britain’s next. Prime Minister. “We will work with the French authorities to find a solution.”

France denied that its border agents were unprepared. Georges-Francois Leclerc, the top official in the Hauts-de-France region, said an unforeseen “technical incident” in the Channel Tunnel had prevented some border counters in Dover from being staffed as planned on Friday morning, but insisted the issue was resolved after about 75 minutes. .

On Friday afternoon, port authorities said more French personnel had arrived “and traffic is slowly starting to move, but it will take some time to clear the backlog”.

The French Embassy in London said on Twitter that “French border controls at Dover are operating at full capacity” and that French and British authorities are “cooperating closely” to get people moving.

Turkish lorry driver Muhammet Turker said he started queuing at his rig in Dover on Thursday evening and was still waiting 4pm later.

“I’ve been through something like this before, but this is the worst,” he said.

The problems follow days of disruption to travel on Britain’s railways after a heat wave caused record temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the UK, warping tracks and sparking fires .

Rail workers are also planning more walkouts next week in a dispute over wages and conditions.

Air travel has also been hit by disruption, in Britain and around the world, as airlines and airports struggle to cope with the return of mass travel after two years of pandemic restrictions.